Tips for Handling your Child’s Sleep Issues for Single Parents

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Do you struggle getting your child to sleep? Perhaps since becoming a single parent you’ve noticed changes as they go between houses or that they’ve been impacted by stress following a separation? We asked sleep expert Tracey Stevenson for some sleep tips.

Going through a separation can be an emotional and confusing time for everyone, including your child.  

Sleep is essential for your child’s physical and mental well being, but it’s common for children to have problems falling asleep and getting enough sleep if they are feeling stressed. Changes in sleep routines between co-parenting households can also have an impact on a child’s sleep.

In this post we’re going to look at a few themes around sleep and some strategies that you can use as a single parent to help your child get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep hygiene

No I’m not talking about when you last washed the sheets! I’m referring to making sure your child’s bedroom, (or yours if your child sleeps in your room), is the BEST environment it can be.

The first thing to consider is light, or, more to the point, how to keep it out. Think dark room, as dark as you can get it. Could you invest in blackout blinds to keep out the sunrise? (If your child is afraid of the dark, you can use a low wattage red night light).

Is your child’s room clutter free or are there any distractions? Clear away any toys before bedtime to create a calm environment.

Is there anything casting a shadow in your child’s room? Look for anything that could be a distraction and try to eliminate it.

Do they have a special comforter/lovely/toy they can sleep with? If so, can they take it with them between each parent’s house to provide a consistent source of comfort?

Is your child able to regulate their temperature? If they have a duvet, check they are able to pull it over them during the night if they get cold. Cotton layers are best for sleep.

Bedtime routine

A solid bedtime routine is great for your child’s sleep – if you do nothing else do this.

Bedtime routine will differ for each family and even potentially for each child, depending on individual need, and it’s great if this can be the same at each parent house. If this isn’t possible be consistent at your house and stick to the bedtime routine each night.

The most important thing is your child feels safe and secure at bedtime.


Keep to your child’s regular nap times. If your child falls asleep easily in the car and it’s not a nap time or it’s close to bedtime, try to keep them awake. It’s not fair on the other parent to drop off a child that is possibly grumpy from being woken or will be up way past their usual bedtime.

Also try and avoid drop off times that coincide with bedtimes.

Two separate homes

Your child now has two homes with possibly different rules. In an ideal world you would agree with your ex on how to raise your child and have the same rules, but this isn’t always the case.  

Focus on what you can control rather than what you can’t. Be consistent with how things are in your home. Keep to their usual bedtime routine and if you have boundaries or expectations in place, uphold them. Children thrive on routine and knowing what is expected of them. It helps keep things as normal as possible. Even the most easy going families can have gentle boundaries.  

Anxiety and sleep

Sleep is important – it’s essential for your child’s well-being.  However, it’s normal for children to have problems at bedtime or sleeping through the night. This can be linked to anxiety. Separation can cause anxiety for children.

Anxiety can cause children to take longer to fall asleep and to have more REM sleep, meaning they wake more during the night, have trouble falling back to sleep and wake up feeling tired. This can then have a knock on effect to parents, who may become anxious and stressed as a result of their child’s difficulty to fall asleep.

Talking and listening

Your child may have feelings they don’t know how or when to express and this can cause anxiousness at bedtime.

Talk to your child during the day and listen to what they are saying. Validate how they feel, don’t dismiss what they are saying. Even if you think it’s ridiculous it won’t be to your child. Offer reassurance about what is happening and they are loved by both parents.

Promote independence and self confidence

Allow your child the opportunity to do things, give them some responsibility, give them choices so they feel more in control. Be your child’s biggest cheerleader and use your words carefully; what we believe is what we become.

Modelling appropriate ways of coping with stressful and negative situations

As much as we might try, we can’t protect our children from everything. If you are stressed about something, acknowledge it and find a way of coping with it. If appropriate, talk to your child about what you did to make yourself feel better.

A parent that can normalise that it’s okay to have different feelings and emotions will help their child realise it’s not just them feeling this way. Talking about it and then find a way of counteracting the feeling or calming down together.

Most importantly look after yourself too. Your sleep matters just as much as your child’s. Reach out, help is there if you need it.

If you need any 1 to 1 help with your child’s sleep get in touch with me today

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